The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein


Goodreads: The Enigma Game
Series: Code Name Verity #2
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Library
Published: 2021


Fifteen-year-old Louisa Adair travels to Scotland to take care of Jane, an elderly German-born woman recently released from prison, allegedly for being a danger to the nation. At the inn where the two reside, a German defector risks his life to drop off a code-breaking machine. Soon, Louisa and Jane get Ellen McEwan, a volunteer driver at the local airfield, and Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, a bomber pilot, involved in their code breaking operation, which seems to gift Jamie’s squad with incredible luck. But then intelligence gets word and they want the machine.

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The Enigma Game is another brilliant addition to the Code Name Verity series–this time a prequel to Code Name Verity that provides the background story for a line dropped about Jamie’s bomber squad experience. It introduces a range of new, lovable characters–including Louisa Adair, the teenage daughter of a Jamaican father and English mother, and Jane, an elderly woman of German origin just recently released from detainment–as well as old favorites such as Ellen McEwan and Jamie Beaufort-Stuart. Their relationships, forged in wartime, stand at the heart of a gripping WWII story featuring code breaking, fighter planes, and espionage. Another winning tale from Elizabeth Wein.

A new point-of-view character, Louisa, carries the story with her youthful earnestness and pure desire to do something to help win the war. Although she is only fifteen, her parents have both been killed by the war, and she is forced to find a job that will enable her to support herself–no easy task when people are reluctant to hire her because of the color of her skin. A phone interview, however, leads her to a lucky break–to be the caregiver for an elderly woman named Jane whom others are afraid to be associated with, because she was born in Germany. Louisa’s determination, her optimism, and her cleverness all make her a charming heroine, one readers are sure to fall immediately in love with.

Though the summary of the book promises a fair bit of excitement with the introduction of the Enigma Machine to Britain, The Enigma Game succeeds not because of the twists and intrigue, but because it depicts a vivid image of life on the British homefront during WWII. The characters, and not so much their unusual circumstances, form the heart of the story– one about belonging. Louisa and Jane’s status as outcasts (along with Ellen McEwen, who has been hiding her background as a Traveller, now that she has a “respectable” job as a volunteer at the airfield) is crucial to readers’ understanding of what it was like to be alive during WWII. Though Louisa and Jane and Ellen are all capable, brave, and clever, they are limited in what they allowed to do, how much they are allowed to sacrifice. And, so, they form their own secret spy network of sorts. And that is the great shame The Enigma Game reveals; the nation people may love does not always love them back.

The Enigma Game works wonderfully as an addition to the Code Name Verity series, bringing back old favorites while also introducing new characters that will find a place in readers’ hearts. It also works as a fine standalone, however, offering reflections on who is offered a place in society, and how societal change can be enacted. The courage of these characters is not just in facing a wartime enemy, but in confronting the darkness of their own society. And that is a message that remains always relevant.

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5 stars

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